(This is a letter from the Madison County Clean Power Coalition and the Franklin County GRP Fallout Citizens Group to the Governor, Lt. Governor and Georgia senators.)

We represent citizens who live near the only two power plants in Georgia burning carcinogenic creosote railroad ties, Madison and Franklin GRP Biomass Plants near Colbert and Carnesville. We write in plea that you to pass HB 857 when the legislature resumes on June 11. This bill will ban the burning of creosote crossties for fuel generation in biomass plants, improve the rest of our lives, and prevent all Georgia citizens from suffering in the future.

Please read the testimonials from citizens who live near the plant.

In 2017, Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) officials met with local leaders and promised that the planned biomass plant would have no emissions other than steam and that no treated wood would be burned. However, when the plants fired up in May 2019, citizens became concerned about their health and quality of life. GRP broke their promise and instead began to haul toxic creosote railroad ties in from all over the country, then chip and burn them to fuel the plants. Our air filled with black smoke and toxic emissions. Railroad tie chipping dust and debris washed into our water and settled on farmer’s fields. Our health suffered and property rights were violated. We formed citizens groups in protest. Over 2,700 people signed the stop burning railroad ties petition. We sent complaints to the EPD resulting in numerous water, air, and land violations, which GRP and their railroad tie supplier, National Salvage, have failed to resolve to this day. We asked our leaders to help us.

Our leaders heard our pleas. Early this year, House Reps Alan Powell (District 32) and Tom McCall (District 33) and Senator John Wilkinson (District 50) introduced identical bills, HB 857 and SB 385 that would ban the burning of creosote railroad ties statewide. Madison and Franklin County commissioners unanimously passed resolutions in support of these bills. American Lung Society, Georgia Sierra Club, Georgia Conservancy, and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League voiced their support as well. Affected residents made numerous trips to the State Capitol to testify at Senate and House Committee hearings. The Senate Regulated Industry and Utilities passed SB 385 with just one dissenting vote. HB 857 passed the Natural Resources and Environment Committee unanimously. Then, on March 12, HB 857 passed the full House with 163 “Yeas” and 0 “Nays” votes and our bill crossed over to the Senate. Sadly, later that day, the Georgia General Assembly suspended the 2020 legislative session indefinitely due to the COVID-19 crisis and our life-saving bill came to an abrupt halt.

We know you will be very busy with the state budget when you resume the legislative session but we beg you to consider and pass HB 857. The citizens of Madison and Franklin County were “sold a bill of goods” by GRP. Our health, quality of life, and life investments in our land have been diminished. GRP has made us prisoners in our own homes for the past year, long before the COVID-19 crisis. The health and environment of Georgia citizens, our children and grandchildren should not be put at risk for money and profit. Don’t let Georgia become a toxic waste disposal for creosote railroad ties. Please pass HB 857.

Thank you for taking time to read the attached documentation and consider our request.

(Information sent to state leaders includes testimonials from citizens, photographs of GRP Biomass Plant operations, an American Lung Association statement, Madison and Franklin County Boards of Commissioners resolutions in support HB857 and SB385, a summary of Georgia EPD Notices of Violations, GRP Madison Air pollution facts, and a statement of circumvention of EPA guidelines for operation.)

Sincerely,

Drago Tesanovich

Madison County Clean Power Coalition (MCCPC), Co-Chair

Gina Ward

Madison County Clean Power Coalition (MCCPC), Co-Chair

Gerry Wilson

Franklin County GRP Fallout Citizens Group, Chair

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